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Bēhance

  • Leaving Ubin

    A settlement at the south coast of Singapore's northern island of Pulau Ubin (Malay for "granite island"). Two simple and decrepit wooden houses amidst rampant thicket and clutter. This small Kampong, close to a narrow and silted bay, has seen better times as nature and the waste of civilisation besiege it. But despite the dilapidation, the place has an aura of peace and quiet where the lack of upgrading and modernisation has conserved bygone times.

    Mr Chia Yeng Keng (age 85) was born on Pulau Ubin in the 1920s. Since more than 40 years, he and his wife Mdm Chow New Phang (age 80) have been living in that house, in which they ran a small provision shop in times when the granite quarries were still active. Up to 6000 people lived on the island back then.
    Today there are around 100 residents left; it's getting lonesome in the remote areas, so the Chias commute between the island and Singapore City, where they spend some time in their son's HDB flat in the Serangoon district. There, they get to meet friends and family and use the amenities of a modern apartment. 
    About 85% of all Singaporeans live in this type of high-rise apartment blocks (known as HDBs - Housing Development Board flats), a result of the government's efforts to solve the housing problem in 1960s post-independence Singapore. The Kampong dwellers were systematically resettled, modernising the city's landscape and changing community life forever.

    Every 10 days, the Chias travel through time – retracing Singapore's changes of the last decades in just a couple of hours, from the old village lifestyle to modern life in an urban built environment.